Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-104)

9 MARCH 2004


  Q100 Christine Russell: Are you confident that Royal Mail will be making those contingency plans?

  Mr Morris: Not at this moment, Chairman, as much as I would like, but discussions are going on with my staff over the next couple of days, and I recognise that local managers are responding as best they are able to in the circumstances that they have found themselves placed in.

  Q101 Chairman: So you would very much like us to pursue these questions when we see the Royal Mail?

  Mr Crawford: Yes, Chairman.

  Mr Morris: A little encouragement would not come amiss.

  Q102 Christine Russell: What if your nightmare scenario comes true and, for some reason, you have to re-run an election? Have you discussed that with your insurers?

  Mr Morris: Yes, Chairman, a couple of us took part in discussions with our potential insurers at the end of last week. There is a real issue around the scale and scope of the insurance that is required. We are hopeful that the company that we are discussing with will provide that insurance, but if not we have asked the Department of Constitutional Affairs to indemnify us because, as we have made clear this morning, many of us are actively working anticipating the responsibilities that legally will come when the orders, acts, bills, etc are passed.

  Q103 Christine Russell: Have you had a response yet from the Department?

  Mr Morris: The Department have indicated that they will consider that. I think we expect them to cover it if the insurance is not in place imminently. Of course, I have to emphasise that in this respect, just as we are personally appointed so we are personally liable. I think those of us who are returning officers have a strong awareness of that fact.

  Q104 Chairman: There are not many returning officers who have had to re-run elections, are there? So to be one of the first is not the sort of accolade that you would be—

  Mr Morris: I think the experience of our colleague in Winchester in 1997 is enough to remind us not to want to repeat it, Chair—those of us who know him. It is a very serious issue and quite obviously that is not the only aspect. Clearly we need to be properly insured and we already are for all the everyday things—public liability and employer's liability for the staff that we have (many hundreds of those, in many cases). That in itself is a significant business but is not, probably, the point of the question.

  Chairman: Can I thank you very much for your evidence.

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